Background: Have been following and commenting on a bill now in the legislature, HB 158, which is in House Resources now, which would give DNR authority to implement and oversee a Guide Concession Program (GCP). Our org has been opposing this GCP for various reasons that I won't go into now.
This GCP was pushed from the get-go by the Alaska Professional Hunters Assn. (APHA). And during hearings there have been quite a lot of APHA members testifying in favor of this bill, in favor for the GCP, and alluding that the problems of overcrowding and conflicts that the GCP ostensibly seeks to curb by limiting guides (and thus the # of total clients) is also very much about no limits on transporters and air taxis and the number of hunters (mostly residents btw) they fly out. And that something should also be done to limit that group of hunters if guides were to be limited.
I was asked by one legislative office to comment about this issue of air taxis and transporters, if it was a "significant" part of the "overcrowding" issues brought up by so many guides. I explained that, first off, not all air-taxis are "transporters." Neither are they required to be a licensed transporter just because they fly out hunters. And that many air-taxis that fly out hunters choose not to be licensed transporters, because there is no benefit, only added fees and paperwork. And that the Big Game Commercial Services Board had sought a way to force all air-taxis that fly out hunters to become transporters, under the belief that then that Board could limit all those businesses, to no avail. And even if they could have forced all air-taxis to become transporters, the Dept of Law has still concluded that it would be illegal to impose limits on fly-out access for hunters. So while, yes, surely some overcrowding can happen via no limits on the # of hunters who can be flown out, if you think about it, it is the state of Alaska that sells unlimited hunting licenses, and the Board of Game that sets seasons and bag limits, draw hunts or open hunts, CUAs, and only the BOG can legally limit hunter access, per se, via a CUA or a draw hunt scenario.
Anyway, such a big brouhaha was made over this air taxi/transporter issue by so many guides that the House Resources committee inserted committee substitute language yesterday, and here we get to the crux of this post. Here is the newly inserted amendment to the bill:
Sec. 38,05.023. Big game transporter concession program.
(a) The commissioner may implement a concession program or otherwise limit the number of
individuals who provide transportation services to big game hunters in the field.
(b) In implementing this section, the commissioner may gather relevant
information from other state agencies, transporters licensed under AS 08.54, and other
persons who provide transportation services to big game hunters.
I hope it is crystal clear to everyone reading this what that above language means! Your access could be blocked by a program that all along was supposed to be about solving the issue of unlimited guides and their unlimited clients.
Truly this boggles the mind. I urge everyone to write or call House Resources asap and oppose this bill so it doesn't pass out of committee tomorrow. Here is the contact info for House Resources committee aide, which is easiest way to get comments to the whole committee:
House Resources Committee Aide
Representative Eric Feige
House Resources Co-Chair
State Capitol Room 126
907-465-3715 - Direct
907-321-1249 - Cell
Here is the link to the bill as it now stands: